Photo from Greenpeace Africa
An environmental catastrophe has been unfolding on the island of Mauritius, after a Japanese cargo ship, vessel MV Wakashio, struck a reef off the country’s coast. One thousand metric tons of oil has already leaked into the Indian Ocean, with concerns growing that the ship may split into two.
The tragic, preventable incident, that first occurred on July 25th, is having devastating effects on this critical coastal ecosystem, and the communities and businesses that depend on these resources for their livelihoods.
According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the oil spill threatens the coastal areas of Aigrettes Islands in the bay of Mahebourg (Nature Reserve, 27 ha), and the Blue Bay Marine Park, a critical Ramsar site designated in 2008 and known for its exceptional coral diversity. The area is a complex habitat with coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, lagoons, estuaries, and beaches to the southeast of Pointe d’Esny.
This highlights the critical link between healthy marine and coastal ecosystems and human well-being. It also emphasizes the need for a coordinated regional strategy to ensure effective integrated ocean management and disaster response preparedness to help prevent accidents like this in the future.
This incident is one in a series of recent marine accidents in the Southwestern Indian Ocean (SWIO) region, including a phosphate spill in Southern Madagascar in August 2009, and the mass stranding of dolphins in 2008 following underwater seismic sounding by Exxon Mobil in Northwestern Madagascar.
“There is no guaranteed safe way to extract, transport, and store fossil fuel products. This oil leak is not a twist of fate, but the choice of our twisted addiction to fossil fuels. We must react by accelerating our withdrawal from fossil fuels,” said Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa’s Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager, in a statement. “Once again, we see the risks in oil: aggravating the climate crisis, devastating oceans and biodiversity, and threatening local livelihoods around some of Africa’s most precious lagoons.”
Nagashiki Shipping, which owns the grounded oil vessel, said that it is monitoring the situation and the cause of the incident will be fully investigated.
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